May 22, 2014
MOBILE, Alabama - No. 2 UT Arlington remained in the winners' bracket of the Sun Belt Conference Championship with Thursday night's 7-3 victory over No. 6 Troy at Stanky Field.
The Mavericks, winners of nine consecutive games, were rewarded with Friday off after their second straight triumph in the league's double-elimination tournament. UT Arlington (32-25) faces Friday's Troy-Arkansas State winner on Saturday at 12:30 p.m.
Matt Shortall launched a three-run home run in the first inning and starter Zach Thompson (5-4) earned the win, rebounding after a tough first inning to find his groove. The junior right-hander piled up five consecutive scoreless frames and worked 7.2 innings, allowing two runs on four hits and a walk while striking out eight.
"Shorty got us off to a good start offensively with the three-run homer," UT Arlington coach Darin Thomas said. "Zach settled in and did what he's done for his last four or five starts. He had a little rough first inning, but once he got that out of the way, he was really good."
The Mavericks didn't waste any time as the visiting team to get on the board against Trojans starter Tanner Hicks. Darien McLemore, moved to second in the order, singled to center and Ryan Bottger reached after Troy's third baseman couldn't handle a hot smash.
Shortall emptied the bases with a mammoth shot to left-center, his 10th homer of the season. The blast was the 24th career UTA home run for the senior designated hitter, tying Shortall with Richard Wilkerson for fifth on the school's all-time list.
"It's ginormous to have the guys lead you off like that, with three runs especially," Thompson said. "It's a confidence-booster just going out there and doing your thing. You don't have to worry about too much pressure. You can just go out there and just throw."
Staked to a three-run lead, Thompson and the Mavericks gave a run back in the bottom of the inning. Troy (25-31) took advantage of a hit batter, single, sac bunt and an error to push a run across.
UTA added two more runs in the sixth on three hits for a 5-1 lead. Eric Tate started the rally with a one-out double down the left-field line and moved to third on Travis Sibley's sawed-off single to right. Derek Miller's sacrifice fly scored Tate and Sibley came home on McLemore's single.
McLemore and Sibley each finished with three of the Mavericks' 12 hits. UTA relievers Keegan Hucul and Chad Nack recorded the final four outs. Nack was drilled by a liner, but remained in the game to finish it out.